JAANUU » What Is a CNA and How Do You Become One?

What Is a CNA and How Do You Become One?

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For many, career planning and indecision often go hand-in-hand. If you’ve ever thought, “I want to be a nurse,” where the options are seemingly endless, you’re probably familiar with this.

There’s nothing like landing your dream job, but what happens when you have too many dreams to choose from? Deciding to be a nurse is huge, but what kind of nurse do you want to be?

The truth is the educational requirements for some specialties may be too extensive for your current budget or lifestyle, a reality that limits your career options and can leave you feeling disappointed or disheartened.

Fortunately, there’s a nursing career that can solve most of these issues, at least in the short term: the role of a certified nursing assistant (CNA). Read on for all the details.

What is a CNA?

If you’re looking for an entry-level nursing job, one solid option is that of a CNA. CNAs usually work under the supervision of a registered nurse in long-term care facilities and act like nurse aides, helping out with daily tasks like checking patients’ vital signs or bathing them. 


CNA training is relatively easy to complete. After several months of study, you’ll take a certification exam, and then you’re ready. Wearing a uniform during your training may be required, so get a headstart by searching for some premium but affordable scrubs (and don’t forget about those helpful nursing student discounts, too!). 

What does a CNA do? 

Overall, CNAs make the lives of their coworkers easier by assisting with patient care. Like janitors, cooks, and the ever-trusty electricians, CNAs function as the backbone of their respective industries. Without their dedication, everything would grind to a halt. 

Although a CNA’s certification requires less schooling than other types of nurses, that doesn’t mean the job doesn’t require plenty of skills.

“Is a CNA a healthcare professional?” The answer is a solid “yes.”

Many of their daily tasks are medical, including:

  • Recording vital signs and blood pressures
  • Feeding, bathing, and dressing patients
  • Administering prescribed medications
  • Helping patients with personal hygiene
  • Assisting patients with bathroom-related needs
  • Transferring patients from beds to other seating arrangements
  • Keeping patients’ rooms clean
  • Stocking medical supplies

Note that different states call CNAs other titles, too. They are also referred to as orderlies or patient care assistants.

(If you’ll need to wear a uniform on the job, you’ll likely have to adhere to a medical scrub dress code. Read up on the meaning behind medical scrub colors here.)

Where do CNAs work?

CNAs primarily work in assisted living facilities—37% of them, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

CNAs can find work in outpatient retirement communities, nursing homes, government-oriented settings, or patient homes. In most cases, CNAs help others in a team-oriented environment, reporting back to a direct supervisor like an RN or a licensed practical nurse (LPN). However, the size of your team will depend on your employer.

What is the CNA educational path?

To meet the basic educational requirements, you must earn your high school diploma or an equivalent GED. Next, apply to a secondary school—like a community college—that offers an accredited CNA training program.


The length of time to complete your continuing education takes several months, and a CNA certification exam caps it off. After passing the exam and proving your competency, you can register your licensure and apply for CNA jobs. 

Some other considerations to keep in mind:

  • Before registering for your program, a criminal background check is typically required 
  • You must be up to date on your vaccinations and immunizations
  • Always make sure your state approves the program you’re applying for (otherwise, you can’t receive accreditation)
  • An associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree (BSN) isn’t required for this position

Remember, landing a new job as a medical professional means expenses like new scrubs and jackets. If a holiday or birthday is coming up, consider asking your loved ones for Jaanuu gift cards so you can make all those necessary purchases. 

What are the other requirements for becoming a CNA?

As far as other requirements go, you’ll need expertise with physically demanding work. CNAs do a lot of lifting and shifting to make sure their patients’ needs are taken care of. Good communication skills, a gentle bedside manner, and stellar attention to detail are all musts.

Also, you’ll need time management and documentation skills and the ability to adapt to stressful situations quickly.

Why should you become a CNA?

One of the most important pros of pursuing a career as a CNA is that it can allow you to get your foot in the door for a longer healthcare career.

Although CNA salary statistics are lower than other nursing careers, with the average annual salary sitting at $30,850 per year, many use this job to gain experience for higher-level healthcare positions. If you’re new to nursing, it can give you a good idea of what you want your career to look like in terms of tasks and what you’d rather avoid. The job growth rate is healthy and is predicted to expand by 8% from 2020 to 2030


How are CNAs different from medical assistants and LPNs?

While they all fall under nursing, CNAs, medical assistants, and LPNs are different.

Both CNAs and medical assistants work with patients, but CNAs focus on day-to-day tasks while medical assistants help doctors evaluate patients’ conditions. 

The easiest way to distinguish between the three roles is their length of schooling. LPNs must earn their credentials through a state-mandated exam, and their educational requirements take one to two years. CNAs have the shortest education, averaging between one to three months. Medical assistants fall somewhere between.

Regardless of how long you’ll have to hit the books before earning your certification, student burnout happens to us all. If you or someone you know is a student who desperately needs to kick back and relax, check out these great gift ideas for nurses and nursing students.

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